Concerns over money and inflation. Nuclear war. COVID-19. Racial tension. Violence. According to the American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” poll, our country is more stressed than it has ever been. One news headline declares “Americans are besieged by stress.” Are you one of them?
April in our country is set aside as Stress Awareness Month and a time for us all to take a look at the effects of stress and how we can successfully find more peace and relaxation.
What Is Stress
Stress can be defined as mental tension or worry over a challenging situation. Stress is a pressure from things in the world that are that are getting to you emotionally, and you may not even realize it. We all face varying degrees of stress at times. We can be anxious or worried over something happening or we overthink a problem. We may have trouble communicating with our partners, co-workers, family members or friends and that can create stress. Our internal feelings and overwhelming emotions can also create stress.
We encounter stress at any age. Children and teens face the stress of making friends, juggling studying and tests, competing in sports, music and other activities, and developing their self-identity. Stress stays with us throughout life, even when we are older seniors and we may be stressed by pain or illness, dwindling retirement funds or loneliness.
If we haven’t resolved an issue from our past, that can affect us in our current life and cause stress. For example, if as an adolescent people diminished what you were experiencing and feeling, that added distress and you couldn’t express the stress you felt. So if you carry those feelings of stress and anxiety into adulthood, you may not know how to regulate your emotions. You may not know how to process stressful situations in a healthy way. This can lead to feeling hopeless and you may even turn to aggression and violence. The stress we feel today can come from a long-term feeling of being invalidated and unheard.
Signs of Harmful Stress
We all have regular daily stress, and then at times we may be irritable and more on edge and we have less tolerance to manage our daily responsibilities. Stress can lead to headaches, upset stomach, sleep disturbances, appetite and weight changes and more. Anxiety and depression can stem from ongoing stress.
Chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on our physical and mental health and lead to a weakened immune system. More serious illnesses including heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are linked chronic stress. The more we have unrelenting stress, the higher likelihood we will increase our use of alcohol, drugs and other addictive substances.
Studies report that chronic stress even from childhood can contribute to chronic illness. Adverse childhood experiences which could be considered stressful include moving a lot, parents divorcing, witnessing violence or experiencing violence or abuse yourself. Research shows that having even average childhood experiences that are stressful contribute to possible chronic health conditions later in life.
How COVID-19 Stress Affects Us
We are still going through the stress of COVID-19. Some of us are back at work but that is stressful because we’ve been at home for the last couple of years. Others of us are just reentering the workplace and there’s social anxiety with that over interactions with co-workers and conversations with people who haven’t been around for some time. Adjusting to a new routine can sometimes be very stressful.
In working with think Behavioral Health clients, we’re also seeing issues around COVID grief. Some have lost loved ones to COVID or their own health is affected by the virus. There is also grief in the loss of things we used to enjoy that are not there anymore.
As far as the COVID safety protocols of mask wearing and limiting time in public and other habits to keep ourselves safe we picked, we are now unlearning some of those patterns. We are learning to navigate with living healthier while bringing ourselves back into a space where we feel good, we feel solid, we feel calm. Whether we realize it or not, COVID recovery is definitely still stressful for everyone.
Managing Stress Well
When we look at factors that affect our mental health, first we start with self-awareness. How can we be more aware of ourselves and our reactions and emotions? Sometimes we become very out of touch with our emotions or out of touch with our body, sending us signals about stressful things we are facing.
In addition to raising our self-awareness, we take steps to talk to someone if we need to. If we need to talk through our feelings and circumstances, we get some help from an outside perspective. This may be a spouse, a trusted friend or a professional counselor—someone you feel safe with sharing your true thoughts and emotions.
Practicing self-care is also how we manage our stress. How are we practicing self-compassion and taking care of ourselves? How are we letting ourselves express emotion over things that are stressing us out or are building up over time? We can be proactive in managing stress by understanding what triggers our reactions. We can learn to be realistic with ourselves when we need a little extra support or need to not push ourselves too much.
Managing stress well is unique to each person, but baseline mental health and stress self-care includes:
- Adequate sleep.
- Balanced nutrition.
- Regular exercise and play.
- Connection with others.
- Meditation and silencing the mind.
Whole Person Healthcare for Stress
The benefits of whole person healthcare at think are so helpful for working through issues of stress. The integrative care we offer gives patients easy access to both mental and physical care all in one place. If you’re already stressed, it can be challenging to try to research and call around Omaha for counseling support. The great thing about think is we have mental health counselors and a psychiatrist available to talk, manage medications and give you the extra support and guidance you may need. Our physicians and other healthcare providers communicate seamlessly with our Behavioral Health team so together we help you live with less stress and more enjoyment.
NEED MEDICAL CARE? CONSIDER THINK YOUR GO-TO FOR BETTER HEALTH
Think Whole Person Healthcare is dedicated to keeping you healthy through preventative care and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. From that nagging cough to the mysterious leg pain, our physicians, advanced practice providers and specialists are committed to you and your family’s lifelong health and well-being.
Our walk-in clinic treats anyone, even those who are not a think patient or do not have a primary care provider currently. To learn more about our comprehensive healthcare services, visit our Services page online and choose your own think medical professionals by visiting our Meet Your Doctor page.
We help you stay healthy. Give us a call at 402.506.9000.